Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Retired infantryman Brendan Marrocco, who received a transplant of two arms from a deceased donor after losing all four limbs in a 2009 roadside bomb attack in Iraq.
Retired infantryman Brendan Marrocco, who received a transplant of two arms from a deceased donor after losing all four limbs in a 2009 roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

Soldier looks forward to driving with new arms

A soldier who lost all four limbs in a roadside bombing in Iraq says he is looking forward to driving and swimming with new arms after undergoing a double-arm transplant.

BALTIMORE // A soldier who lost all four limbs in a roadside bombing in Iraq says he is looking forward to driving and swimming with new arms after undergoing a double-arm transplant.

"I just want to get the most out of these arms, and just as goals come up, knock them down and take it absolutely as far as I can," Brendan Marrocco said.

The 26-year-old New Yorker spoke at a news conference at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was joined by surgeons who performed the operation.

After he was wounded, Mr Marrocco said, he felt fine using prosthetic legs, but he hated not having arms.

"You talk with your hands, you do everything with your hands, basically, and when you don't have that, you're kind of lost for a while," he said.

Mr Marrocco said his chief desire is to drive the black Dodge Charger that has been sitting in his garage for three years.

"I used to love to drive," he said. "I'm really looking forward to just getting back to that, and just becoming an athlete again."

Although he does not expect to excel at soccer, his favourite sport, Mr Marrocco said he would like to swim and compete in a marathon using a handcycle.

He joked that military service members sometimes regard themselves as poorly paid professional athletes. His good humour and optimism are among the qualities doctors cited as signs he would recover much of his arm and hand use in two to three years.

"He's a young man with a tremendous amount of hope, and he's stubborn - stubborn in a good way," said Dr Jaimie Shores, the hospital's clinical director of hand transplantation. "I think the sky's the limit."

Dr Shores said Mr Marrocco had already been trying to use his hands, although he lacks feeling in the fingers, and he was eager to do more as the slow-growing nerves and muscles mend.

"I suspect that he will be using his hands for just about everything as we let him start trying to do more and more. Right now, we're the ones really kind of holding him back at this point," he said.

The procedure on Mr Marrocco was only the seventh double-hand or double-arm transplant ever done in the United States.

The infantryman was injured by a roadside bomb in 2009. He is the first soldier to survive losing all four limbs in the Iraq war.

Mr Marrocco also received bone marrow from the same donor to minimise the medicine needed to prevent rejection. He said he did not know much about the donor but "I'm humbled by their gift".

The 13-hour operation on December 18 was led by Dr WP Andrew Lee, plastic surgery chief at the hospital.

Mr Marrocco is to be released from the hospital but will receive intensive therapy for two years at John Hopkins and then at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda.

After a major surgery, human nerves regenerate at a rate of about 2.5 centimetres per month, Dr Lee said.

"The progress will be slow, but the outcome will be rewarding," he added.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National